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Youths as co-researchers on e-health

Teenagers from upper secondary schools in Kristiansand are doing research work for a new project at the Centre for e-health at the University of Agder. 

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Anders Holmene Brueland, Sigve Hovden and Martin Wulf Gerdes, photo
Anders Holmene Brueland (right) attends the upper secondary school Kvadraturen skolesenter, as do as Sigve Hovden (middle). Here participating in roleplaying at the Centre for e-health, University of Agder, with Assistant Professor Martin Wulf Gerdes.

On Thursday, 7 February, a group of youths from the upper secondary school Kvadraturen skolesenter visited the Centre for e-health on the university's Campus Grimstad to present their research.

The teenagers who attend the programme subject class Technology and Research had carried out a survey about youths' thoughts on e-health, using social media and how they related to online health services.

The importance of privacy protection

"It has been a demanding project with a lot of numbers and results, but now that we have the final result, I must say it was absolutely worth the effort," Anders Holmene Brueland says.

He attends Kvadraturen skolesenter and says that the work has made him see how complex research work can be and how much work is actually behind it.

"A large part of the preparations for the project was learning more about privacy protection," Brueland tells. "It was something I knew quite a lot about, but the scope of everything you must keep in mind surprised me. Especially regarding privacy protection."

Useful for the researchers

Andreas Prinz, foto

Professor Andreas Prinz, Head of the Centre for e-health at the University of Agder.

Throughout 2018, four groups from different schools in Kristiansand have been a part of the project by the Centre for e-health. 

The project is a part the PROFORSK programme from the Research Council of Norway which aims to raise understanding of the impact that research has on society and contribute to raising children and youths' interest in research. The programme aims to contribute to showing children and youths that research is a possible career path. 

Head of the Centre for e-health Andreas Prinz says he is very pleased with the work done by the teenagers.

"They have been very interested and have provided input the entire way. They have collected quantitative data and delivered good results. But they have also provided additional information, such as why youths do not use such and such technology or website. That is important information for us to have for our further work," Prinz says.

Roleplaying for developing services

The Centre for e-health works with technologic development of health and caregiving services. Co-creation is a central part of that.

"The goal is that the students will understand the complexity of e-health and how important expertise and research are in this field," Prinz says.

In addition to doing surveys, the youths have visited the Centre for e-health to learn more about how they work. Among other things, this involves roleplaying about developing services where groups of teenagers take turns playing out and observing realistic situations.

"Afterwards, we gather to discuss what worked and what did not. Do we have to change the service or the technology that is used? This makes the youths understand how technology and service development work," Prinz says.

Not well-known among teenagers

Anders Holmene Brueland says that being involved in the project has been an interesting experience. 

"It is impressive to see how the department is organised and that such a facility exists. What made the greatest impression on me were the simulated hospital section and the technology they have access to," he says.

He was already aware of the existence of several e-health services for teenagers, such as ung.no and Helsesista, but not how much they are used. 

"It was new to me how unknown e-health services are among teenagers, even though we surround ourselves with technology 24/7," he says.